Response to Some Resolutions
By Jennifer Dunnam, President
Following is a summary of my conversations with Richard Strong, Director of Minnesota State Services for the Blind (SSB), regarding the resolutions pertaining to SSB that were adopted by the National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota in convention assembled October 9, 2011. These resolutions were adopted because of specific issues that were brought to the attention of the NFB of Minnesota and had been discussed in past months with Mr. Strong.
I sent these resolutions to Mr. Strong not long after the convention, and when we met shortly thereafter, he indicated that he had reviewed the resolutions thoroughly with Jon Benson, who had recently become the Workforce Development Director at SSB. Additionally, training of staff on new elements of the recently-revised administrative rule had covered some of these items.
Resolution A11-01, Regarding Job Placement and Training at SSB
Mr. Strong indicated that he agreed that temporary employment before a customer has achieved the vocational goal is not itself grounds for closing the case. SSB is not an employment program in the classic sense; the rehabilitation process leads toward a specific, agreed-upon vocational goal. If that goal is to be amended, it is to be done with the agreement of the customer.
Instances can arise during the rehabilitation process in which case closure may be appropriate, but not because the person has achieved some part-time or temporary employment. Cases are not to be closed early just because a person got a part-time job or internship, and he will continue to work with staff to ensure this understanding.
Resolution A11-03, Regarding Filling Policy Vacancy
This resolution referred to a specific position vacancy at SSB. Mr. Strong stated that the position is not being re-classified, but clarification of the purpose of the position is in order. There are two reasons for the position. The person filling this position will be a counselor with a caseload and will also be a resource to the field. The person is to work in collaboration with the supervisors and counselors, not simply a "point person" for interpreting and promulgating policies.
Resolution A11-05, Regarding Technology and SSB
Mr. Strong indicated that he agreed with the assertion in the resolution that technology does not require the seeking of comparable services and benefits. If a customer needs assistive technology to work toward the vocational goal, the customer should not, for example, be sent to the local library to use whatever technology may be available there. There have been some shifts in the administrative rule that will help ensure that customers receive required technology services. A person could receive a technology package on loan while in adjustment-to-blindness training. There are solutions available that do not require sending customers elsewhere to get the rehabilitation services they need.
Resolution A11-07, Regarding Statewide Fiscal system
Although this resolution is not addressed to SSB, we shared it with Mr. Strong as well as others in a position to do something about the issues, so that he would be aware of the concern from the organized blind. Mr. Strong said that the Statewide Integrated Financial Tools (SWIFT) continues to be problematic on a variety of levels to everyone. It has caused great difficulty in obtaining the reports needed to manage the business of SSB.
Minnesota Management and Budget (MMB), the state department responsible for the SWIFT system, has since sent several letters detailing the actions it is taking to rectify the accessibility problems with SWIFT. As shown in the following letter, it has made progress on the accessibility front.
January 11, 2012
National Federation of the Blind of Minnesota
100 East 22nd Street
Minneapolis, MN 55404
Dear Ms. Dunnam:
On behalf of the SWIFT Project Team and its Steering Committee, I wanted to follow up on my earlier letter of November 28, 2011, about the concerns expressed by the National Federation of the Blind regarding vendor information and resources. We are fully committed to making certain all vendors and prospective vendors have access to the tools and information needed to effectively conduct business and bid on business opportunities with the State of Minnesota.
The SWIFT Project Team has recently modified the Supplier Portal to improve its functionality based on feedback from the vendor community, which includes your membership. The SWIFT project ushered in a new way of doing business for all current and prospective vendors, and vendors across the state have had to adjust to their new roles and responsibilities within the new system.
We invite you and your members to review both the Supplier Portal https://supplier.swift.state.mn.us and resources provided as guidance on the Minnesota Management and Budget Website http://www.mmb.state.mn.us/vendorresources. If your members continue to experience difficulty accessing or using the SWIFT Supplier Portal now or in the future and have suggestions for improvements, we encourage them to contact Wale Sanya at firstname.lastname@example.org or 651-201-8214. If they have general vendor questions about their registration or payments with the state, they may contact Sue Swanson, email@example.com 651-201-8183 or Deeja Kinde, firstname.lastname@example.org 651-201-8184 for personal assistance.
Enclosed with this letter are instructions on activating the accessibility mode on the Supplier Portal. These instructions will soon be available directly from the Supplier Portal page via the link titled Instructions for Enabling Accessibility Mode.
Thank you for your patience with the implementation of Minnesota's new accounting and procurement system.
Swift Program Director
Minnesota Mgmt and Budget
400 Centennial Office Bldg.
658 Cedar Street
St. Paul, MInnesota 55155